Beach Reading: A Novel Idea

Last summer, after I graduated from university, I set out to read a massive booklist. I love learning and I didn’t want to stop just because I was no longer in classes. Plus I spend a lot of time at my cottage and my favourite beach sport is laying completely still and reading a good book.

I asked people to recommend anything and everything to me. Books to entertain, to teach me new things, to stir questions inside me, to inspire me. I asked for suggestions and ultimately I got a list of over 30 books. I didn’t quite make it through alllll 30, but I did learn a lot along the way. This week, I’m going to share a few favourites, maybe recommend some titles that we should all read, and say that if you’re going to spend money on something – books are always a worthwhile investment.

Themes in the books I have been reading over the course of the last year talk a lot about our hearts, relationships, faith. Feeling our feelings and getting comfortable with vulnerability. This might sound like the worst reading material to you – but it was so helpful in my own growth. My Top 10 favourites since I put out my call for worthwhile books include :

  • Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (If you’ve every had questions about faith, finding meaning, spirituality or anything along those lines this book asks a lot of challenging but great questions)
  • Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown (Brené is a queen, this is her newest book I love everything about it)
  • If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski (This book reminded me again and again that it’s okay to ask for help, to be honest and to lean on people. I’m thankful for this book)
  • Love Does by Bob Goff (I have lost track of how many times I’ve read this book, I cried when I heard he was writing a second because I was so excited. Please please please read this)
  • Love Lives Here by Maria Goff (Have I cried in public while reading this book? Maybe)
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (Rupi writes poetry that feels so relatable and hits the spot of describing emotions I didn’t know I was missing the words to)
  • Option B by Sheryl Sandberg (If you’re cynical about gratitude this book has all the stats and data to assure you that positivity is worth it)
  • Rising Strong by Brené Brown (If you’ve ever fallen down, felt hurt or disappointed, so everyone, this book is a game changer)
  • Scary Close by Donald Miller (If you’re in a relationship with any human other than yourself, romantic or not, you should pick this one up.)
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimmimanda Nigozi Adichi (This doesn’t really need an explanation, the title speaks for itself.)

If I could pick one book on this list to ask everyone to read it, well I’d have a hard time with it. I’ve gifted Love Does and If You Feel Too Much and Scary Close to many different people because I feel each of them has special things to offer. And apparently they give out We Should All Be Feminists to every 16 year old in Sweden, who knew?

The books I’ve listed get me excited and inspired. They move me to think differently about the world around me. Honestly, a lot of them have inspired posts I’ve already written on this blog. Posts like Let People Love You, Loving People Well, The Gratitude Project, and Let’s Talk About Em-pa-thy  wouldn’t be here if I didn’t pick up a lot of these books.

I started reading a new book yesterday, even though I have about 10 others left to finish. It’s by Bob Goff and it’s called Everybody Always (who happens to be on that list up there, yup that guy I cried over. It’s fine, I’m fine.) Within a few chapters I was feeling fired up and encouraged. I could ask you to pick any title on this list and read it, but my hope today is that you’ll go out and pick a book you’ll get excited about. Maybe it is one of the one’s I’ve talked about but maybe it isn’t. That’s okay, you do you, just find a book that does get you fired up.

I’m excited to start my new summer reading list, I picked up a few new books last week but if you have any recommendations of books you think I should read, either because they relate to ones on this list or they are personal favourites of yours, I always love suggestions.

Happy Wednesday!

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To The Girl Gang of 2018

I’ve been living in Florida interning for a non-profit that works to provide hope to those struggling with mental health. The last four months have been so special, and the main reason is that I’ve shared this experience with five other girls, so this week I want to honour each of them.

To the Girl Gand of Spring 2018, thank you for teaching me so much about how big this world is. About what it looks like to love people, and for reminding me daily how strong and smart and incredible women are. Thank you for the late night ice cream, for laughing till we cry, eating raw cookie dough too frequently, for beach days, for opening up and being real and having, sometimes hard, honest conversations for the sake of developing deep, honest relationships.

When we first arrived we were given the advice don’t cry with people you can’t laugh with – because building relationships and trust takes time. We quickly learned to laugh together, usually until we ended up crying. I’m so thankful for each of you – I’ve been stretched and grown for the better because of the opportunity to know you and live with you all.


Alex, you are a queen. I love that you’re always down to go to the beach and the effort you put unto making people feel seen and heard. From decorating the house for valentines day to the little things everyday you make people feel so special. Thank you for always being encouraging, thoughtful, and someone I know I can talk to. I appreciate you so much and admire you in so many different ways.

Emily, I’m thankful for you and it’s so much more than being thankful for having another Canadian by my side on this adventure (though that’s huge and I’m glad someone here understands what I mean when I talk in celsius). I’ve loved getting to bond over a mutual love of coffee, malls, and seeing you grow to love the beach. You remind me that it is great to be excited and enthusiastic about the things people are passionate about and you show me the strength in honesty.

Hannah, I am endlessly thankful Bex put us in the same room. From being willing to offer a hug and get on my level when I needed to sit on the ground and feel my feelings, you have been so thoughtful and caring. Thank you for the pep talks, the laughs, the sweet notes of encouragement and being generous with your time. I’ll always laugh when I remember our life chats from our bunks when we are getting ready for bed.

Lori, I admire you so much. I always forget that you’re younger than me because you have a confidence and determination. You are so strong and able to just get shit done. We relate on a lot of things; you’re my go-to girl to listen to Sam Smith with, fawning over pretty buildings, and I know can count on you to for a laugh, a hug, or to hold my elbow. Also I love that you say bless you with the same intensity as the sneeze.

Montana, you are a magnificent friend. You never cease to make me laugh. Thank you for always being a shoulder to cry on and inspiring me to think deeply. You’ve helped me grow and think about what is really important in life. You also make great music recommendations and introduced me to tacos and queso – and honestly I think my biggest area of personal development since I moved to Florida is my love of tacos so thank you.

Bex, our fearless leader. If it weren’t for you, none of us would be here at all. Thank you for always seeing the best in each of us, and encouraging us to see the world that way. You are a great listener and oh so patient with us as we navigate this adventure. I will miss hanging out in your office with you and Annie Jo, bonding over Sugar Shack donuts, and your regular high fives. Also, thank you for providing me with a Back Street Boys education.


I’ll be processing and growing from the last few months for a while, but what feels most relevant right now is this: we are all people. We are all living stories, and it is a privilege to hear the stories of those around us. Each moment in life is so precious, it’s fragile – so live these moments fully, tell people you love them, be honest about what you think and you feel.

Living in community isn’t always easy, I’m sure there were my share of days I got on people’s nerves – but if you assume the best and remember that no-one is perfect you’ll learn a lot.

We can waste time getting stuck on differences- but if you take time to appreciate them you can learn so much from the people around you. It has been an honour to do that these past months and have my perspective of the world grow. I’ve tried new things and heard about places I’ve never been (but hope to see). I’m so grateful for all that I’ve experienced and learned the past few months, I feel so full of hope and love and light, and I will be endlessly thankful I got picked to live with each of these amazing girls.

Things That Feel Like Home

I’ve had the privilege of calling Florida home for the past few months, and in a few short weeks I will be getting on a plane and flying back home to Canada. When we think of home we usually think of the general definition, “the place where one lives”, but I think there is a lot more to what home means, and what it feels like.

The other day my roommates and I pulled into the driveway after going to see Love, Simon (it’s great – go see it) and one of them said “we’re home”. Which was followed with a gasp because usually we call the places we are from home. But now this place we’ve been living feels a little like home too.

If you’re curious, I live in Indialantic, Florida. It took me half my internship to memorize the zip code, but I finally did it. It’s a town where I have a favourite ice cream place, and a favourite breakfast place, I have rituals of pizza and Starbucks at the beach, and it is where the little coral house I share with my roommates has become our home.

I’ve been thinking about how things, other than houses or buildings, can develop a feeling of home. Small sensory things like flavours, smells and sounds can remind me of home. If you don’t know what I mean, I’ve talked about maple syrup incessantly since I moved to Florida, and don’t get me wrong – I love maple syrup, but I didn’t talk about it on a daily basis in Canada. I get maple donuts from the donut shop across from my office more often than I would like to admit. Songs have that same nostalgic power, they can transport you through time and space. One minute I can be in the present, and the next I can be brought back to memories of dance recitals or road trips.

I think the biggest thing that develops a feeling of home is people. The lyrics Home is wherever I’m with you come to mind when I think of people feeling like home. So does the phrase, “home is where the heart is”. When we are away from people we love, part of our heart is with them. I think home is found in relationships, and the sensory things we crave are to remind us of the people we have memories with.

The difference between a house and a home, is that a home isn’t always a building, it is the people who make places special to begin with. When I miss home, it’s not the house I call a home that my heart yearns for. It is the family and friends that make my hometown special.

As I prepare to fly back north, I’ve been reflecting on the parts of life down here that have felt like home, and what I know I’ll miss most when I’m home. I love my little beach town I’ve called home. I like my local donut shop where I get lattes on long Monday afternoons, I enjoy that I live an eight minute walk from the ocean, and that I feel like a local when I know where I’m going in the grocery store. Building routines and finding favourite restaurants has been fun – but the things that make this place feel like home aren’t things.

It’s people.

I know when I go home the things my heart will miss most will not be the beachside Starbucks (but it’ll be a close second), it will be the friendships I’ve made with my roommates and coworkers. These people who I’ve learned from, been inspired by and who encourage me to grow. This place feels like home because of the community I’ve been immersed in. I can’t bring them all back with me – but I know when I miss them I’ll eat some tacos and listen to their favourite songs and be grateful for the time we’ve spent together.

 

A little challenge for you: think about the people that make home feel like home to you – tell them how much they matter and give them a big ol’ hug.

 

Waffle House is Loyal

This week’s blog is coming to you from someone I admire very much. She is a fellow TWLOHA inter, has introduced a love of tacos into my life, and loves a good pair of socks. She is so wonderful and needs no further intro, here is Montana:


There are currently 99 Waffle House restaurants in my home state of Texas out of almost 2000 in the entire country. By total area Texas is roughly 268,581 square miles. That is roughly California, Colorado and half of Rhode Island combined. As you can see Waffle House is not a big thing in Texas.

Making my trip by car to live in Florida for 4 months, my best friend and I noticed many Waffle Houses at various exits almost in the exact same spot as the ones before, along I-10 passing through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and then to my final destination, Melbourne, Florida. (I counted, from the start of Louisiana to Melbourne, Florida; there are about 173 Waffle Houses. And I counted under.) My friend said, “You know, Waffle House is loyal. Every time we’ve passed one at an exit they’re always in the same spot, so you know where to look for them.” This got me thinking; metaphorically speaking Waffle House is kind of how friendship should look.

In high school I had my fair share of best friends. I also had been hurt and abandoned by the same best friends. Going into college was a very lonely season in my life. I was trying to figure out whom I was in a new city surrounded by so many people. I was guarding my heart from being hurt again from the people I wanted to care most about. It was very hard for me to find friends my first year at college. I had seen from previous friendships that people walk away when things get tough, so I had set the bar high for friendships and I wasn’t going to settle.

This is solely my opinion on how a healthy friendship should look, and if you’re still with me, congratulations for making it this far! Like your first experience at WH it can’t be forced and you will experience it in due timing, friendships can’t be forced, they need to happen naturally. When you find your person you will know. WH and breakfast food as whole makes most people happy; I also heard from my mom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Friendship should impact your life and happiness. It should also be an important priority in your life.

As stated earlier WH was always there, in the same spot on the same side of the road at most exits on I-10. WH is also opened 24 hours, 365 days a year. Friends are supportive and they’re always at every exit, to walk with you through the hard stuff. I’ve only been to WH once because like I said; there is not many of them where I live in Texas. WH started in 1955 that means the first couple Waffle Houses are about 63 years old. Some of them might not be in the best shape, but then again sometimes our lives aren’t in the best shape. Friendship is accepting others for who they are regardless of the condition your WH is in. When I went to WH for the first time, I felt a sense of welcome-ness and it felt homey. Be welcoming and secure in your friendships.

The mission statement for WH is “We are not in the food business…we are in the people business.” On WH website it says, “Since day one, each Waffle House restaurant has provided guests with a unique and comfortable dining experience. At every restaurant, the bright “Yellow Sign” greets customers like an old friend.” Joe and Tom, the founders of WH did not envision what WH has become, but they stuck by their concept and their belief in shared ownership. Friendship should not require you to compromise your values.

Friendship should be concrete and not circumstantial. WH does not give away their recipes. (They are “well guarded secrets.”) You should be able to trust your friends with the things you tell them, knowing they will stay between the two of you. Some WH menu items can be greasy and sometimes grease is nasty, but it also doesn’t stop you from digging into the delicious breakfast sitting in front of you. Friendship can look a little gross sometimes, but that shouldn’t stop you from facing fears head on and working through the hard stuff. WH gladly accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. They do not accept checks. A lot of businesses don’t accept checks anymore because they can be written as a “hot check”. A hot check is often referred to as a “bad check” or a “dishonored check” WH is an honest and loyal business, and friendship should be too.

From the First Impression to the Last

Something I have learned from cultivating relationships is that your first impression of someone can be widely different from your fifth impression. And different still from your eightieth impression – and I think all of them are valid. We talk a lot about making a good first impression but the thing is people reveal different things about themselves each time we interact. I can’t count all the times I’ve laughed with friends about our first impressions because they change so vastly throughout the friendship.

First impressions can be awkward, we can be nervous meeting for the first time or trying so hard to make a good impression that our personality doesn’t get to shine through. Someone might make a great first impression and a bad second. We could make a terrible first impression and a great fifth. The point is that sometimes it takes longer to get to know people. It takes patience and seeing past differences or bad impressions and a belief that people are good.

A band I admire called Penny and Sparrow shared a video today that explained how one of the songs on their most recent album was about their frustration that there is such a divide between people in the world today and that “there are human beings that we have very strong opinions about that we have never met with, broken bread with, or spent any time with”. In the video the lyricist explained his idea that “once you get to know someone it makes it way harder to attribute senseless hate or senseless judgement”.

These words reminded me of the chapter People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In, in Brené Brown’s newest book. Looking at the world it can be easy to generalize, to use bad first impressions to make assumptions about people without getting to know them. But once we invest in getting to know and understand people the picture looks different. She explains that in her research she found the people with the strongest sense of true belonging (being your most authentic self and believing in your self) stayed ‘zoomed in’ on their community. Brown wrote;

“They didn’t ignore what was happening in the world, nor did they stop advocating for their beliefs. They did, however, commit to assessing their lives and forming their opinions of people based on their actual, in-person experiences. They worked again the trap that most of us have fallen into: I can hate large groups of strangers, because the members of those groups who I happen to know and like are the rare exceptions.”

Recently I moved to Florida and I didn’t know anyone in the state beofre I arrived. The experince has been full of making a lot of first impressions and meeting a lot of new people. It has been a growing process, stretching my comfort zone and has shown me so much about appreciating unique differences and points of view. It has been a privilege to get to know these people and learn from them.

The take away I want to leave with you is this: everyday we make good and bad impressions on people.

Sometimes people talk about “true colours” and attribute bad behavour on a bad day to who we really are. The thing is that people are more complicated than one action or interaction. We see eachother at our best, at our worst, and my hope is that we can remember that someone’s true colours are when people are at their best. When we see someone struggling, we should offer help rather than judgement. And as we walk through the world be carrying a belief that at our core, people are good.

On Forgiveness

This past summer I read an extensive book list I was trying to get through – as the summer came to a close many of the books that once captivated my attention have fallen aside, half read. I guess that’s why they say you shouldn’t try to read eight books at a time. As I prepared to pack my life up into one tangerine suitcase and a black jansport a few weeks ago I tried to fly through the last few chapters of a handful of these books because they couldn’t all come to Florida with me.

Mercy

On of the books I was reading this summer was Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott. It was a little hard to get into, but she had some great lines about mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Sometimes when I’m offended or hurt by someone, in the position of needing to forgive, it’s helpful to have the reminder that:

  1. I’m not perfect and when I mess up I’m hopeful to get forgiveness so it’s important to forgive people when they mess up
  2. Forgiveness does more for you in terms of healing than holding a grudge.

In Hallelujah Anyway Anne Lamott writes; “Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. In involved absolving the unabsolvable, forgiving the unforgivable. Mercy brings us to the miracle of apology, given and accepted, to unashamed humility when we have erred or forgotten.”

Lamott suggests that the approach we can take to relationships and our lives is to be gracious at all time, forgiving as often as we can, and compassionate to the struggles and experiences of other. Compassion and empathy are key in relationships because it allows you to feel with others and understand them – added with grace when we mess up and they mess up you create a space for healthy relationships.

Forgiveness

One of the things I’ve learned about forgiveness in my twenty-two years of life is that it gives you freedom to let go of the pain that initially hurt you. The happiest place to live is when we can honour the pain we have endured and move on from it. And forgiveness gives us the freedom to do just that.

When we are still feeling sadness, anger and resentment it means we are holding on to things that hurt us, which is okay while we are processing and grieving.

Another book on my reading list this past year was Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. She wrote about pain and said “Pain will subside only when we acknowledge it and care for it. Addressing it with love and compassion would take only a minuscule percentage of the energy it takes to fight it, but approaching pain head-on is terrifying. Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it” and that when we have been hurt and we are living in our pain “anger and hate are our go-to emotions.”

It is easy to feel angry or hateful, but it does not free you from how you are feeling and it does not let you live in a place to move forward with your life. New opportunities can not come when you are in that place. Learning from failure cannot happen in that place. Reconciliation and the restoration of relationships cannot happen in that place.

New Beginnings

When we are hurt we may be entitled to pain, justified in our hurt, and right to be angry – but it will hold us back from healing. As Brené writes “When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.”

Recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and hurts people’s feelings, including you, is okay. Part of the human experience is to feel hurt and sad and to learn to move past those feelings to create new moments for yourself and the people around you.

Yet another author from my summer reading list was the Canadian poet Rupi Kaur, one of my favourite poems she has written is short and simple but it illustrates what I’m saying concisely.

 you look at me and cry, everything hurts

I hold you and whisper, but everything can heal

I wrote about forgiveness this week because its is important to think about everyday, because little offences can throw off a whole day, and big fights can impact meaningful relationships. Sometimes we get hurt and sometimes we accidentally hurt others. But practicing grace and forgiveness gives us hope and space to navigate those things. To see the best in people, to hold onto relationships when it feels hard, to heal our hurt.

The newest book on my reading list these days is one I started recently called Love Lives Here by Maria Goff. She wrote something that stuck me when I read it this weekend, “It won’t be the fires that destroy our lives and our faith. It will be obsessing over not getting burned again that will”. I think it can be easy to get our backs up, worry about getting hurt and not want to let go of the pain from things that have burned us but trust me on this one: mercy and forgiveness let you off the hook to find beautiful new beginnings.

For Rylan

I have just one sibling. But he is so wonderful that I don’t need any others, he is the best big brother anyone could ask for. If you’re a regular reader you might have seen the post he wrote for this blog last week. He is generous and kind, loyal and sensitive, encouraging and loves people fiercely. He is an incredible person who writes poetry, loves tie dye and can’t be quite for more than ten minutes (but I love him for it) and I’m lucky to call him my brother.

Tomorrow is Ry’s 25th birthday (making today his Birthday Eve – yes this is a real thing that should always be celebrated) and despite not bring there to celebrate him in person I wanted to take time to make sure he knows I’m celebrating him even when we are 21,000 kilometres apart.


Something I love about my brother is that he truly embodies qualities and values that he thinks are important. His actions speak so loud he doesn’t need words for you to know how wonderful he is – he shows you. He listens to the stories of every person in the room, he is respectful, kind, thoughtful, and makes people feel so loved.

Rylan is genuine and earnest. I love that he isn’t afraid to be truly himself, he is passionate and enthusiastic about the things that excite him and he is always willing to share his passions with others. I learn something new about music, pop culture, world religions, or the rhyming construction of rap and poetry every time we talk. His presence creates a unique space that allows people to be their most authentic selves because he is willing to be his.

He also teaches me so much about what it means to be creative, loving, generous, thoughtful, to learn new things each time you get the chance, and to be myself. He is funny, he tells great jokes, he knows when you need him to listen, he is patient and understanding, he will have dance parties with me on the beach, he is creative and uniquely himself, he always has a word of encouragement or a song recommendation. He will put up with my craziest requests. He quite simply the sweetest person I know.

He is so exceedingly gracious that I once gave him a homemade birthday card and he said he loved it and our mom later told me I’d written the wrong age on the card – but he didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to make me feel bad. And you might think that is a cute anecdote from when we were little kids but it is more recent than I would like to admit. Even on the day that is meant to be about you – he is thinking about other people. He has been teaching me about selflessness and embodying kindness our whole lives.

It’s important to have people to look up to, who you admire as role models in your life and who you can turn to for advice. Finding people in your community who can inspire you pushes you to grow and be a better person. There are so many sayings about the value or surrounding yourself with people you want to become and I believe it really is crucial – which is why I’m so lucky to have grown up beside someone like my brother. I trust Ry to be a confidant, someone to give me thoughtful advice and he’s one of the first people I call when I need a shoulder to cry on. He is encouraging, honest and non-judgmental; but apart from being a great listener he has great advice because he is wise and embodies so much of what I hope to be. I highly recommend you find someone like Ry and hold on to them tight.

Ry, you inspire me so much. I am so thankful you’re my bother. I love you so much I don’t know if these words could possibly express it so I decided to rip Elton John off a little;

I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do

My gift is my blog, and this one’s for you

And you can tell everybody this is your blog
It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world